Joel Embiid returns from 9-game absence, scores 42 points in 2OT loss to Timberwolves

Joel Embiid exploded for 42 points in his return from a nine-game absence due to health and safety protocols but wasn't able to lift the Philadelphia 76ers in a 121-120 double-overtime loss to the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.

Embiid played 45 minutes in his first game back after testing positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 8. He finished with 14 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks and got to the free throw line 21 times.

"I really thought I wasn't going to make it," Embiid said of his time battling the virus. "It was that bad. So, I'm just thankful to be sitting here. I'm just glad I got over it.''

Tobias Harris also returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous two games with a hip injury. He finished with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists.

"It's good to have Embiid back,'' he said. "We missed him, for sure.''

Embiid scored all seven of Philadelphia's points in the second overtime, and his 12-foot baseline jumper put the Sixers up 120-117 with 1:58 to play. But a Naz Reid layup pulled Minnesota within a point with 30.8 seconds left, before D'Angelo Russell stole a pass intended for Embiid and assisted on Reid's driving layup that put the Timberwolves up a point.

Philadelphia had one last chance to win it, but Embiid's 3-point attempt was blocked at the buzzer.

Russell led the way for the Wolves with 35 points, including 27 in the fourth quarter and two overtime periods.

"Joel was phenomenal tonight, but we still lost the game,'' 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. "Give him credit. He's obviously been working out.''

The short-handed Sixers went 2-7 without Embiid. Saturday's loss drops them to 10-10 on the season, while the surging Timberwolves have won seven of their past 10 games.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.